WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary James Mattis delivered a speech at the Pentagon on Monday in honor of 9/11 victims and first responders.
“We are here to honor those 2,977 lives claimed by the brutal attacks of September 11, 2001 – men and women who woke that day never anticipating an attack on their place of work or against this country, innocents who hailed from 90 nations and all walks of life,” Mattis began.
“Attackers perpetrated murder that fateful day. But heroism and compassion were boundless on 9/11. Patriots from all backgrounds and all walks of life responded with speed, with courage and with compassion,” he said.
Mattis said the nation and its service members are “steadfastly committed” to seeing the fight through.
“For, while we had never asked for this fight, we are steadfastly committed to seeing it through, as President Trump has made abundantly clear, and with no more temporizing, as our example of leadership galvanizes other nations to stand united against this threat to all humankind,” he said.
He called the 9/11 terrorists “maniacs disguised in false religious garb.”
“Maniacs disguised in false religious garb thought, by hurting us, they could scare us that day. But we Americans are not made of cotton candy. We are not seaweed drifting in the current. We are not intimidated by our enemies. And, Mr. President, your military does not scare,” he said.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, who spoke before Mattis, also signaled commitment to continuing to fight and preventing another 9/11.
“Sixteen years ago, when terrorists attacked the Pentagon, the World Center, and as they attempted other attacks in Washington D.C., they did so with a sense of purpose. They were attacking symbols that reflect our way of life and our values,” he said.
“The terrorists believed that these attacks would shake our commitment to those values. And, as President Bush said hours after the attacks, the terrorists thought they could frighten us into chaos and retreat. But they were wrong,” he said.
“Instead of retreat, the tragedy of 9/11 produced in us an unyielding resolve. Instead of hopelessness, our mourning turned into action. And we have strengthened our commitment to the idea that the freedom of many should never be endangered by the hatred of a few,” he said.
“Each of us will walk away from this simple ceremony reminded that the war is not over and that further sacrifice will be required. And each of us will walk away with resolve to strengthen our personal commitment to protect our family, friends and fellow citizens from another 9/11.”
The observance took place at the Pentagon, where 184 died when two of the 9/11 terrorists crashed a plane on September 11, 2001.